Utahn who was in Nice, France recounts deadly terror attack

Posted at 10:22 PM, Jul 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-16 00:22:04-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- A Utah State University student and Bountiful native said he was right next to the terror attack in Nice, France on Thursday.

In fact, Matt Cerar explained he was supposed to be out celebrating the fireworks when a box truck plowed through the crowd.

Cerar is traveling around Europe, and he stopped in Nice on Sunday to explore the city for several days.

He was out enjoying Bastille Day festivities on Thursday, which included a parade. A fireworks show was scheduled for later that night, and he was planning to attend.

To eat up some time, Cerar stopped at a casino. A few hours later, he watched the frantic scene of terror unfold. Cerar is deaf, and he communicated that he didn’t immediately know what was happening.

Signing from Skype, he explained what he saw. FOX 13 News' Brek Bolton translated the interview.

“People started to panic,” he signed. “Freaking out, running everywhere. I wasn’t sure what was going on.”

Though he couldn’t hear, he could see something was wrong. Outside the casino, the truck had barreled through the crowd.

Eventually, Cerar found someone to communicate to him enough to figure it out. Then, he saw the scene for himself.

“I was able to look out a window, I was curious to see what was going on,” he signed. “All I saw were bodies lining streets that had been hit by truck.”

The casino immediately went on lockdown, and Cerar continued to watch the aftermath from inside.

“It was just a scene of carnage, just terrible to look at,” he recounted. “I couldn't stand to look at it anymore, so I left from the window and went back into the casino.”

While inside, Cerar’s family began to message him to make sure he was alright. Thankfully he was, all because Cerar lost track of time and didn’t go outside to see the fireworks.

“For me it was a realization that I was supposed to be out there,” he signed. “Of course, I was playing games in the casino, but I had planned to go watch the fireworks.”

Cerar stayed on lock down for four hours before he was allowed to return to his hotel a half a mile away. He signed that security has now been tightened around the city.

When asked what the atmosphere in Nice is like now, he signed: “It's just very emotional as you would expect, you can see people's anguish and broken hearts. Of course you see a lot of tears, it's really a depressing day.”

He explained that security is tight in Nice, and the city is somber. He sent FOX 13 a few photos, including one that shows a vigil for the victims.

Cerar plans to leave Nice on Saturday, and he has a month of travel left before returning to Utah.

He signed that he’s staying positive as he finishes the trip, though the terror attack will certainly be on his mind.

“Definitely changed my perspective on life,” he signed. “I’m thinking about those families, praying for those families who have lost loved ones.”